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UDALGURI,Assam November 3: The concerned authorities in Assam assigned to detect and deport illegal immigrants mostly Bangladeshis appears to be on an overdrive when it comes to branding Indian nationals as ‘foreigners’ not only brandishing their power tool to harass genuine Bengali speaking people but even Hindi-speaking people whose ancestors migrated from Bihar,Uttar Pradesh decades back to Assam.Can one imagine the ordeal of a genuine Indian citizen had to undergo for being declared as illegal Bangladeshi foreigners in their own country, practically arrested and left to rot in detention camps by their own police and government? Days after an outcry over how a retired Army officer of Assam was branded a foreigner and asked to prove his citizenship, the Foreigners Tribunal in Udalguri of Assam set free Kismet Ali and Ashraf Ali, both residents of No.Sonajuli village under Dimakuchi PS of Udalguri on October 30 last. While Ashraf Ali was born in Siwan district of Bihar, he migrated with his parents to Assam in 1980s and Kismat Ali was born in Kharupetia, of Darrang his father was a truck driver, born in Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh who migrated to Assam in 1950s. Both of them were marked as “D voter” in 2006 by Election Commission of India without any investigation. Subsequently they were held as “foreigners” by ex parte judgement. Both were languishing in Goalpara detention camp of Assam since 12th August, 2015 nearly 260 kms away from their village here in 1 No. Sonajuli under Dimakuchi PS of Udalguri.

They preferred writ petition challenging the verdict of the Foreigners Tribunal which were dismissed by the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court, they subsequently approached the Supreme Court,which initiated an enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI).

Kismat Ali with his son  at his residence in 1 No. Sonjauli village of Dimakuchi in Udalguri of Assam on Thursday.
Kismat Ali with his son at his residence in 1 No. Sonjauli village of Dimakuchi in Udalguri of Assam on Thursday.

Kismat, the youngest of four siblings, said they were lucky as their father, Mukhtar, regularly went to his ancestral village in UP to cast his vote before settling down in Assam permanently. “His name was in the UP voters’ list published after the 1962 assembly election and he obtained his driving licence in Assam in 1956 along with a Radio license in 1970,” Kismat said.Those documents made Kismat an Indian again, but it came at a price.

 Ashraf Ali along with his daughters an octogenarian mother at his residence in 1 No. Sonjauli village of Dimakuchi in Udalguri of Assam on Thursday.
Ashraf Ali along with his daughters an octogenarian mother at his residence in 1 No. Sonjauli village of Dimakuchi in Udalguri of Assam on Thursday.

Ashraf’s family too was traced back to his village in Siwan by the CBI. His father Hasnain Ali’s Bihar School Examination Board certificate was found to be genuine. Hasnain Ali, too, had sold off his land, records of which were found in the local land registry besides letters from the Village Sarpanch of Raj Shankarpur in Siwan district of Bihar. The school leaving certificate from Sekhar Sankardev Mission School Dimakuchi, Udalguri, too, said Ashraf Ali was
a student who left school on 31.12.1991.

The CBI verified all documents of Ashraf and Kismat and found that they are originally from Bihar and UP respectively and all their documents are genuine.The SC remitted the case back to Foreigners Tribunal,Udalguri which held them Indian Citizens by birth and they finally walked to freedom after 2 years, 2 months and 17 days. Finally I won the battle in proving my citizenship in a land where my fore-fathers resided for decades. “Par iske liye bahot kuchh khona para (But I had to lose everything I had for this freedom),” Kismat told this correspondent. The problem lies with the so called investigation of Election commission, who arbitrarily accused Ashraf and Kismat of being “doubtful voters” without any investigation whatsoever says Aman Wadud lawyer of Kismat and Asharf who is based in Guwahati and has been helping many such genuine citizens to fight the legal battle.

On the condition of anonymity, another senior legal counsellor said investigation agencies have their own compulsion. They have to appease the collective conscience of the majority and the government, who accuse genuine Indian citizens of being Bangladeshis, even if their parents are Indian citizens, thus grossly violating the citizenship rights.

Narrating his tale, Kismat Ali recounts the day on August 12, 2015, when he was fast asleep in his small house in village Sonajuli 1 in Udalguri district when somebody knocked on his door at around 1 am. “I found there were 15 cops from the border branch of the Assam Police when I opened the door,” he said. The cops ordered him to get dressed immediately.

“They did not even explain to me what crime I had committed,” added Kismat, who has been reunited with his family after two years and two months in detention. “That night they even did not allow the family members to come with me. I left them crying,” Kismat recounts.

Kismat was first taken to the Border Police Office in Udalguri. “The Border Police personnel told me that I am a D-voter who has been declared a foreigner. They wrote a statement and made me sign it,” he said. “Then, they shifted me to Goalpara District Jail,” he added. “I was kept with rapists and murderers in the jail,” Kismat recounts. His dormitory housed 60 people according to him. Now, a free man who does not have to prove his citizenship, Kismat’s ordeal started when the local verification officer submitted a report suspecting him to be a foreigner. Kismat confirmed that he received notices but he did not take them seriously.

The case of Ashraf and Kismat should be an eye opener for the government and investigation agencies. Let the investigation agency go after illegal immigrants and not hound and harass genuine Indian citizens in the name of illegal immigrants.
Shajid Khan is a Journalist based in Assam.In his stint of journalistic experience he has contributed numerous political, socio-political stories for bountiful national,international as well as Assam based publications. He also pens down analytic commentary on print and web based publications. He can be reached at itsshajidkhan@gmail.com

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